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World Water Day: a day dedicated to water

This 22nd March, like every 22nd March for almost twenty years, is World Water Day, an opportunity to find out more about this precious resource, take concrete action and make a difference.

In 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the experts decided to turn the spotlight on water and its importance at a global level. The United Nations General Assembly responded the next year by designating the 22nd March World Water Day, a whole day dedicated to a different topic corresponding to a current or future challenge facing the management of “blue gold”.

The link with work
The theme of World Water Day 2016 is “Water and work”, a topic selected by UN-Water, the United Nations body working on the issue, and coordinated by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Also part of the United Nations, this body promotes workers’ rights and social safeguards, and reinforces dialogue and discussion on topics intrinsic to work.
Water and work have the power to transform peoples’ lives. The former is fundamental for the survival of mankind, the environment and the economy whereas work provides income and helps expand better social and economic conditions.
All the latest information about the theme “Water and work” will be contained in the World Water Day Report, a document that will be presented at official celebrations taking place in Geneva the 22nd March 2016.

Liquid economy
About half of workers worldwide (some 1.5 billion people) work in sectors relying to a greater or lesser extent on water, and for which water guarantees safety and capillary distribution.
Many of these jobs are not recognised, not paid and do not provide basic safeguards to those doing them. Think, for instance, about the girls who walk miles every day to collect water and bring it home: a job that is unpaid and which takes them out of school.
As BCFN experts explain in the book Eating Planet, actions aimed at improving a community’s water supply and sanitation system should not be implemented in isolation; rather they should be part of a development strategy involving infrastructure, education and good governance. To ensure these structures continue functioning over time, in a way that is effective and sustainable, they require regular maintenance as well as education and the creation of relevant jobs.
Water and sanitation have a considerable impact on the life and health of workers. According to the United Nations some 17% of the two million global deaths that occur annually in a work environment are in some way connected to water (poor quality of drinking water, lack of sanitation services and information). The availability of suitable water, services and sanitation can contribute towards improving the health of the population and the productivity of the work force and help break, particularly in less developed countries, the cycle of poverty. “If well managed, water can create work, contribute towards a greener economy and sustainable development,” say United Nations experts.

Giving water a voice
Many countries and tens of thousands of people and organisations get involved each year in the events and initiatives organised for World Water Day.
In 2015, over 1.2 billion people worldwide took part on social media, coming together to inform, get informed and act to obtain concrete results and benefit the weakest and most vulnerable people today and tomorrow.
How can I get involved? There are countless opportunities. In keeping with this year’s theme, make yourself visible with posts and selfies emphasising the role water plays in our daily lives or think about the meaning of water and represent it artistically. The simplest way to get involved in these and other initiatives is to visit the site that shows all events according to location.
You can also organise concerts, games and debates in schools and offices. And you can even make a film, write a song, develop an app, organise a sports event or a photographic competition. The only limit, as it says on the United Nations site for the event, “is the imagination of those wanting to take part.”

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